Phase-amplitude cross-frequency coupling in the human nucleus accumbens tracks action monitoring during cognitive control

Front Hum Neurosci. 2013 Oct 7;7:635. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00635. eCollection 2013.


The Nucleus Accumbens (NAcc) is an important structure for the transfer of information between cortical and subcortical structures, especially the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus. However, the mechanism that allows the NAcc to achieve this integration is not well understood. Phase-amplitude cross-frequency coupling (PAC) of oscillations in different frequency bands has been proposed as an effective mechanism to form functional networks to optimize transfer and integration of information. Here we assess PAC between theta and high gamma oscillations as a potential mechanism that facilitates motor adaptation. To address this issue we recorded intracranial field potentials directly from the bilateral human NAcc in three patients while they performed a motor learning task that varied in the level of cognitive control needed to perform the task. As in rodents, PAC was observable in the human NAcc, transiently occurring contralateral to a movement following the motor response. Importantly, PAC correlated with the level of cognitive control needed to monitor the action performed. This functional relation indicates that the NAcc is engaged in action monitoring and supports the evaluation of motor programs during adaptive behavior by means of PAC.

Keywords: action monitoring; cognitive control; learning; nucleus accumbens; phase-amplitude coupling.